Of course, Ben-Barak rightly notes, so is everything else—from your socks to the top of Mount Everest. Just to demonstrate, he invites readers to undertake an exploratory adventure (only partly imaginary): First touch a certain seemingly blank spot on the page to pick up a microbe named Min, then in turn touch teeth, shirt, and navel to pick up Rae, Dennis, and Jake. In the process, readers watch crews of other microbes digging cavities (“Hey kid, brush your teeth less”), spreading “lovely filth,” and chowing down on huge rafts of dead skin. For the illustrations, Frost places dialogue balloons and small googly-eyed cartoon blobs of diverse shape and color onto Rundgren’s photographs, taken using a scanning electron microscope, of the fantastically rugged surfaces of seemingly smooth paper, a tooth, textile fibers, and the jumbled crevasses in a belly button. The tour concludes with more formal introductions and profiles for Min and the others: E. coli, Streptococcus, Aspergillus niger, and Corynebacteria. “Where will you take Min tomorrow?” the author asks teasingly. Maybe the nearest bar of soap.
Science at its best: informative and gross.
(Informational picture book. 6-9)
Readers join an Alvin pilot and scientists in an exciting journey as they voyage down deep to the ocean floor to collect samples and conduct research.
Named for Allyn Vine, who helped pioneer deep submergence research and technology for the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute, Alvin helped in the exploration of the Titanic wreckage in 1986. “Imagine you’re the pilot of Alvin, a deep-sea submersible barely big enough for three,” the engaging text begins. Cusolito’s inviting, “you are there” narration puts readers inside the submersible to discover what one wears, eats, and talks about during a typical eight-hour journey to learn about life inhabiting the deepest realms of our oceans. How do you breathe? What kind of music might you listen to? How do you see when you “enter thick blackness”? The answers to those and many other questions are answered. The voyage down is not without perils: “Fishing nets or anchor chains could entangle Alvin and trap you.” On the seafloor, “Eerie spires loom. Black smokers blast scalding water and poisonous, sooty particles from deep inside Earth.” The digitally created illustrations evoke the dark mysteriousness of the deep ocean and depict the crew as a man of color, a white woman, and a white man. Endmatter explains how Alvin works and describes the author’s and illustrator’s research.
An appealing, exhilarating, and informative vicarious journey of discovery.
(glossary, further reading)
(Informational picture book. 5-9)
Fifty years on, readers reminisce with a young black girl who recalls how black sanitation workers launched a movement for equal rights and safer working conditions and stayed committed to justice amid tragic loss.
Basing her story on the true accounts of Dr. Almella Starks-Umoja, Duncan creates 9-year-old Lorraine Jackson to tell the full story of the Memphis sanitation strike of 1968. The story begins not with the entrance of Martin Luther King, who would arrive in March, but in January, when the tragic deaths of two black garbagemen due to old, malfunctioning equipment added to calls for change. The author’s choice to not focus on the singular efforts of King but on the dedicated efforts of community signals a deeply important lesson for young readers. Strong historical details back up the organizing feat: “In the morning and afternoon, for sixty-five days, sanitation workers marched fourteen blocks through the streets of downtown Memphis.” The narrative is set in vignettes that jump between verse and prose, set against Christie’s bold paintings. Lorraine learns that “Dreamers never quit” after reminiscing on what would be Dr. King’s final lecture, delivered on April 3. The struggle doesn’t end with King’s death but continues with the spotlight cast by Coretta Scott King on the sanitation workers’ demands. “Freedom is never free,” Lorraine notes before closing with the thought that it remains our mission to “Climb up the MOUNTAINTOP!”
Encapsulates the bravery, intrigue, and compassion that defined a generation, presenting a history that everyone should know: required and inspired.
(Picture book. 9-12)
Major similarities and differences among six classes of animals—and two additional animal categories—are explained with the aid of simple rhymes and sophisticated art.
A text that aspires to reveal nature facts using rhythm and rhyme can easily fall into pitfalls—sometimes sacrificing meaning for good scansion or vice versa. Amazingly, this book manages to convey elemental facts about animals with verse that both scans and informs. The initial double-page spread shows two children gazing at creatures in a tide pool. The book’s opening (and closing) lines emphasize the idea that Earth’s animals have many tangible differences but also that all are, as the subtitle says, “kin.” Variations that categorize each family are discussed and illustrated in the pages that follow. An excellent double-page spread of appealing mammals illustrating the qualifying traits of milk, fur, warmbloodedness, live birth, and parental care is followed by an equally thoughtful spread with a lineup of humans as mammals that contains diversity in terms of race, ethnicity, and the many ways that human families are defined. Categories beyond common animal families include “detritovores,” which merits this descriptive—and humorous—couplet: “Detritovores, so oft forgotten, / dine on things both dead and rotten.” As with the rest of the text, the couplet is followed by further explanation of the category and accompanied by vibrant, detailed art. Backmatter provides both further information and resources for readers who want to help animals.
A very welcome addition to nature shelves.
(Informational picture book. 3-8)
The surprisingly complex history of one of America’s favorite board games.
In the early 1900s, Lizzie Magie created and patented the Landlord’s Game in order to demonstrate the frequent injustices of the landlord-tenant relationship—it even had socialist alternative rules. As people began to play the game, it was adapted by players, including a business professor who called the game Monopoly. During the Great Depression, a down-on-his-luck businessman named Charles Darrow decided to handcraft and sell Monopoly boards, adding many of the design features we know today. As the success of Darrow’s version of Monopoly grew, Parker Brothers took interest—only to discover that they couldn’t patent it, as Lizzie Magie already had! When Parker Brothers finally gained rights to the game in 1935, Magie received relatively little compensation while Darrow made a small fortune. Stone presents the board game’s messy history with ease, providing a clear, linear path to today’s Monopoly without ever compromising the nuances of its invention. Direct-address narration engages children, leaving room for them to draw their own conclusions: “So who wins in this story? What do you think?” Salerno’s soft, dynamic full-bleed illustrations reflect yet move beyond the aesthetics of the game and time period, making every page compelling and fresh. All illustrated people, including named figures and background characters, appear white. Backmatter includes trivia, Monopoly-related math problems, an author’s note, and a bibliography.
Stone delivers a winner.
(Informational picture book. 5-10)
The Band-Aid is one of those remarkably useful things that just about everyone has used, but has anyone wondered who invented them and how they become a staple in medicine cabinets all over?
In an engaging, humorous narrative, Wittenstein reveals the true story behind the invention. In the 1920s, Earle Dickson worked as a cotton buyer for Johnson & Johnson. His wife, Josephine, was an accident-prone klutz who frequently injured herself in the kitchen, slicing, grating, and burning herself. The son of a doctor, Earle worked on finding easier ways to bandage Josephine’s injuries than wrapping them in rags. He took adhesive tape, then applied sterile gauze and crinoline, and the first Band-Aid was born. Impressed with Earle’s prototype, his boss agreed to produce and sell the bandage, but it took a while to catch on. Once Band-Aids were mass-produced, the company gave them away to Boy Scouts and soldiers serving in World War II, and then they caught on with the American public and the rest of world. Wittenstein notes that some of the dialogue and interactions between Earle and Josephine are imagined. Hsu’s illustrations, done in mixed media and Photoshop, have a whimsical, retro look that nicely complements the lighthearted tone of the text. Earle and Josephine are white, but people of color appear in backgrounds.
Appealingly designed and illustrated, an engaging, fun story about the inspiration and inventor of that essential staple of home first aid.
(Informational picture book. 4-8)